For our final installment of this year’s Firefly Music Festival, we look at the performances from some of Sunday’s headliners and smaller acts including Elle
For our final installment of this year’s Firefly Music Festival, we look at the performances from some of Sunday’s headliners and smaller acts including Elle King, Ludacris, Grovelove, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats, Blink-182, and Mumord and Sons.
Atlanta rapper Ludacris was switched from Friday to early Sunday afternoon and thank goodness for that, because it would’ve conflicted with Tame Impala and that would have been a tough decision to make. He put on a phenomenal show, and made my nostalgic late 90s early 2000s hip hop dreams come true. He had a DJ spin some jams for about 15 minutes to get the crowd revved up, but he came out right on time for his hour-long set and delivered rapid-fire lyrics, a boisterous performance, raw unfaultering energy and a charismatic attitude. The crowd couldn’t get enough of it. He performed all of his major hits and took it back to the beginning with “Southern Hospitality” “Blueberry Yum Yum”, “Area Codes” “Ho” “Money Maker” which normally features Pharrell, “My Chick Bad”, “Get Back” Roll Out” and the fight-starter, but my ultimate favorite, “Move Bitch.”
Luda wanted to test to see who were the true Ludacris fans out there and the crowd proved with their movements and singing every verse that they were in fact, diehard fans. The crowd wanted all the bangers and the rapper delivered. It was a hip hop head’s dream. He slid in some songs he’s featured on such as Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” and Fergi’s “Glamourous” in switch it up between his songs.
He ended with the classic, down and dirty “What’s Your Fantasy” followed by a rambunctious, crazed crowd breaking it down with their partners. His energy and lovable personality kept the crowd amped up and that’s why I love him. Glad I had the chance to catch him live because he did not disappoint like many rappers do.
Country/blues singer Elle King was a fantastic surprise. The Ohio native who rose to fame by breaking hearts with her hit radio single, “Ex’s and Oh’s” tends to be sort of cutesy and poppy, not that I don’t like it, but her performance Sunday afternoon in the blazing heat sounded completely different from her radio sound. Her soulful raspy blues sound mixed with a hard rock edge, and country twang undertones peppered in, provided a splendid set reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, the Dixie Chicks and ZZ Ward.
Tattooed and donning a white dress, she switched back and forth between a banjo and a guitar and lured the crowd in with her infectious, powerhouse voice and raw banjo strumming. As I arrived, she was performing a cover of the late Johnny Cash’s “Shot A Man in Reno” and killed it. King also performed the intoxicating and spirited “Ain’t Gonna Drown” and a number of other soulful jams both filled with heartache, pain and raucous behavior before wrapping up with her well-known “Ex’s and Oh’s” hit. She would be good in a small acoustic setting or a large concert venue. I would love to see her again.
Her witty, blunt, and funny banter with the crowd made the show even livelier and more enjoyable. She talked trash about a shitty guy she dated, getting drunk and getting kick out of bars and at one point poured a whole pitcher of water over herself and declared she wanted it to feel like she was in a wet t-shirt contest. The crowd went wild. She seemed to be a very true and genuine person and one that you’d want to shoot back countless shots of whiskey with at a dark dive bar. She has a “I don’t give a fuck” attitude and it’s awesome.
Indie/pop band Grouplove, out of Los Angeles, introduced themselves to the world in 2009 and took us by storm when they dropped their 2011 hit “Tongue Tied.” We were all hooked by the catchy words and dancey-light-hearted beat. And when the group took the stage at Firefly Sunday afternoon they did not disappoint. It was not-stop energy and movement from beginning to end. We sat towards the back, but that was the best part to see everyone dancing to their upbeat, poppy tunes. Everyone surrounded each other in groups and danced sweat-drenched together while inflatable beach balls and animals, balloons, and giant sticks with various weird objects and famous people bounced around.
When they performed their hit “Tongue Tied,” everyone from the front of the stage to way back at the end of the grassy knoll, stood up and started moving. As the chorus “Take me to your best friend’s house/Go around this roundabout/Oh yeah/Take me to your best friend’s house/I loved you then and I love you now/Oh yeah” came around, it ignited the crowd into a frenzy and non-stop dance party as they sang along clutching their best friends by their sides. The resounding long drawn out “Oh Yeahs” could be heard for miles as happy festivalgoers sang along forgetting their cares and the heat.
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats are a blues/rock outfit out of Missouri and were another one of the most memorable acts from Firefly. They’ve recently grown in popularity with their hit song “SOB” which is a boot-stomping, whiskey slanging, hand clapping soulful hit. Rateliff and his crew took the main stage around 2:30 pm and the field was packed from end to end and all around with fans. We sat in the back under some trees to escape the scorching heat, however looking back I wish I would have gotten up closer to see the band’s killer performance. The band’s passion and soul exudes out of each song with deep roots in blues and good old-fashioned rock and roll. Each song heavier and better than the next, I was captivated and anxious for more. He howled with a deep, aggressive, voice over each song, but still managed to charismatically carry you through his life journey from one song to the next.
After a long set of delivering heavy rock and soulful tracks, he finally performed the song everyone was anticipating: “SOB.”
It’s intense and raw, and a simple, raspy outcry for the need for a good stiff drink. With some fancy horn playing in the background. That song makes me dance every single time and it’s shows off all of his talents. The crowd went wild during the chorus singing and dancing along and clapping in unison at the beginning of the song. Rateliff wrapped up thanking everyone and giving a shout out to Pride Month and Bernie Sanders. He’s the man.
Rock band Blink-182 performed Sunday evening on the main stage and the popular 90s band was all you could hear anyone talking about Sunday. I was never really into them even when they were taking over the radio in my middle and high school years, but their devoted, huge fan base still seems to stand today. The crowd was a mashup of 90s babies, 20 somethings, and older people who were all reliving their younger years. The sense of nostalgia was running high as the band, with new vocalist Mark Skiba, took the stage. Screeches and screams could be heard all around and some were even crying as soon as they broke into their endless hits from the earlier years such as “All the Small Things”, “What’s My Age Again”, and “The Girl at The Rock Show” and “Dammit”.
Kids moshed, danced and sang their little hearts out to each word. I can appreciate the energy and dedication they brought to the performance after all these years delivering just what the fans had been dreaming of. At the end of their show, Blink shot pink confetti into the crowd which was pretty cool.
British folk/rock band Mumford and Sons, one of the headliners, were the major highlight of Sunday night and without a doubt, my favorite performance from the entire festival besides Florence and The Machine. I have been wanting to see them live for years and finally had the chance to see them from the second row in all their glory. The band put all their blood, sweat, tears, energy, heart and more into this performance and fans could not have asked for anything more. After waiting an hour and a half to seem them up close, it was well worth it to see frontman Marcus Mumford kill it on the guitar, banjo and even drums for two and a half hours. Tears were shed, hands were waved and I danced until my body wouldn’t allow me to dance anymore. Cheers and chants rang out from the crowd and we clapped along as they went through their hits of “Little Lion Man”, “Awake My Soul”, “Ghosts That We Knew”, “The Cave” and the uplifting “Lover of the Light.”
The skeptical sorrow-filled “I Believe” led to the lead singer sauntering across the stage holding out the mic for the crowd to sing the chorus, which we did.
Their light show was incredible and all the musicians from the upright bass player, to the fiddle player, were impeccable. About halfway through their show, Marcus Mumford announced they had just dropped a new album that Friday, Johannesburg, and interestingly went to South Africa to work with internationally known Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal to make the album. The group brought him and another man out on stage to perform a couple of incredible songs from the new album. Maal’s wailing chant pierced the night and was amazingly powerful. His band mate played along with a hand drum as Mumford and Sons backed them up on the guitar and drums. The songs wonderfully blended the band’s folk sound with true African sounds.
At one point, Marcus Mumford jumped into the VIP area in the front and disappeared into the night into the sea of people. Eyes darted around frantically looking for the musician hoping to catch a glimpse of him and his next move. As we anxiously waited for him to pop up behind the crowd, the band continued to go on playing on stage for quite a while. Finally, after about 15 minutes, Marcus emerged in the middle with hundreds of people clawing and grabbing at him as he tried to hoist his way back up on stage. Finally making it back up there sweaty, exhausted and tousled hair, he took to the drums to finish their electric song.
The band went off stage for a brief moment, about 10 minutes or so which made the crowd demand them even more, shouting “encore” at the top of their lungs, which of course we knew was coming. They came back with their breakout folky up-tempo hit “I Will Wait” and ended with their popular radio hit, “The Wolf.” It was a surreal, emotional experience, but I would see them again, again, and again. Mumford and Sons is currently out headed on a U.S. tour, but unfortunately aren’t coming anywhere near here, but catch them if they come to a city close to you. Even if their sound isn’t your thing, you won’t regret it, because the performance they put on live is incredible.
Exhausted, dirty and dehydrated we headed out to exit the festival with the thousands of other tired partygoers ready for a fresh shower and warm bed, but not before the reggae/electro sounds of Major Lazor drew us in for a few minutes. We didn’t go deep into the crowd, but passed them by on the way out and listened to frontmen Diplo and Jillionaire play their reggae-heavy sounds over remixed pop and hip hop tracks. The sparse crowd was dancing and some were hula-hooping, but we made our way to our car satisfied and hearts filled with wonderful music from this year’s Firefly Music Festival. It’s a wonderful experience as a first timer at the fest, every music festival is different and this festival definitely is worthy of a second trip.